'The Vampire Diaries' Review 'American Gothic'
I feel like I'm seeing intentional nods to Buffy and ANGEL, Joss Whedon's old shows about vampires, on two genre shows lately. One show that seemingly freely borrows from Buffy/ANGEL (more Buffy in TWD's case) is The Walking Dead; the other is The Vampire Diaries. Indeed, this is nothing new for the latter show. The similarities between The First and Silas are staggering. TVD's similarities are more than just Silas/season 7. It also involves the active redemption of a brutal villain. Case in point: Klaus. He's killed characters who are close to the beloved characters of the show, he chased others out of town, and he massacred his own hybrids for trying to rebel against him. Klaus tried to seduce Caroline with darkness last week. Sound familiar? Klaus is Spike. I'm having vivid flashbacks of the disturbing balcony scene in "Dead Things" as I write; you know, the scene when Spike has sex with Buffy on the balcony in The Bronze as he whispers to her about darkness.
Klaus-as-Spike is more than that, though. For instance, Spike has a rather bad day in "Bring On the Night" in season 7. The First abduct him and chain him up. They get into his mind by appearing as Drusilla. Spike suffered a lot by "Bring On the Night." Buffy's writers put great effort into earning Spike's redemption. TVD's writers have a similar thought with Klaus. How does a unredeemable character get redeemed? The task is easier with the Salvatore brothers, Elena, Caroline, Bonnie, etc., than it is with Klaus because their actions are routinely forgiven by the narrative and by the fans. A common trick in genre television to make a character suffer to induce sympathy and empathy and thus be comfortable with that character, usually a bad apple, becoming more or less good. It usually works--it worked for LOST and Ben Linus, for Buffy when Angel came back from hell after his reign of terror as Angelus, and so on and so forth. Klaus suffers in "American Gothic." Klaus tells Caroline he's not scouring the lands trying to kill Tyler. The series wants to make it possible for Klaus and Caroline to date, but they're also turning the character into someone who can lead a spin-off.
I was asked what happened in the first 35 minutes of "American Gothic." I thought for a moment, then responded, "Rebekah took the cure." I was asked, "That's it?" I replied, "Yes. That's it." The exchange crystallized the episode for me. For all the running around small-towns, fighting and intimidation, and whatnot, "American Gothic" takes its sweet time in regards to forward momentum. Rebekah and Elena question Katherine about the cure. Elena goes to meet Katherine's mysterious friend and lover, Elijah, and Elijah's horrified to hear of the murder his lover committed and that he's being used to broker a peace deal between Katherine and Klaus. Damon and Stefan track down Rebekah and then separate to track down the cure and Elijah.
The cure ends up in Elijah's hands by episode's end. Elena sends the boys a clear message about listening to her about what she wants--she promises to kill people for as long as they try to force the cure onto her, stating the bodies are on their hands. It's great to see Elena tell the Salvatores to leave her alone and respect her wishes. Let's be honest: it's time for the Salvatore's to back off. Stefan's plan to help Elena and then leave town reminded me of a certain vampire with a soul in late season three of Buffy, but, regardless, that Stefan realized he and she need a significant break was quite welcomed. Elena's murderous plan isn't so great, mainly because I'm not looking forward to the fallout from the plan. TVD deserves many compliments for boldly choosing to turn their heroine into the, as it were, villain of the show. In the end, though, it'll be the same as Buffy having some fun in "Bad Girls" only to feel remorseful when she realizes what's happened.
Elena's going to face temporary consequences. I wondered last week whether or not Caroline's shock at what she's done would mean anything for the moral question of the show. Caroline's feelings don't carry over. She's back to using Klaus' crimes against him whilst ignoring her own, only lamenting that she's away from her prom committee duties (PROM). I'm skeptical about the depth of Elena's guilt she feels post-switch-gets-turned-on. That's more there than here, though. Elena's physical example of meaning what she says puts the brothers in damage control mode.
Meanwhile, Rebekah asks her brother to please give her the cure. Elijah wishes she wasn't burdened by her father. Elijah's the second vampire to tell her she can't erase her issues by becoming human. I thought their scene was the sweetest of the episode. Elijah's gentle and understanding. Rebekah's treated like trash a lot, but her older brother treats her compassionately. His compassion is well-meant since Elena reminded him, and the audience, that he told referred to her passion as a gift and that he hopes she carried it with her whereever she went. Elijah stands out because he's unlike the other selfish characters on the show. Elijah considers others and how an action will impact someone else. The other selfish characters do not. They think about themselves. When they say 'to hell with the world,' they mean it and don't look back.
-Silas made Klaus suffer. Caroline took Klaus' mind off the pain, and Klaus nearly confessed his love to her. I'm waiting for Silas to lift the words from The First and ask Klaus who'll believe in him. He'll think of Caroline and say, 'her.' Many a fan video will then get made.
-The prom episode is actually happen. Any consistent readers will know I've been rather invested in the prom/graduation episodes. I'd be delighted if the core characters weren't allowed to attend the prom as a disciplinary measure for missing too much school. It'd never happen. The vampires would compel their way in.
-Here’s the script for “Bring On the Night” since I wrote about it earlier:
-Evan Bleweiss & Jose Molina wrote the episode. Kellie Cyrus directed it.